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State v. Kopp

Decided: October 29, 1980.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES G. KOPP, DEFENDANT



Menza, J.d.c. (temporarily assigned).

Menza

Defendant appeals from a conviction in the municipal court which adjudged him guilty of failure to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance on April 26, 1980, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2.

Defendant, the owner and operator of the vehicle, contends that although he was not covered by a liability insurance policy at the time of the incident in question, he nevertheless had sufficient reason to believe that he was in fact covered. He therefore contends that he is not guilty of violating the Statute.

The question presented to the court is whether knowledge of lack of insurance is an essential element which must be proved in order to sustain a conviction of an owner-operator.

N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2, provides:

Any owner, or registrant of a motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this State who operates or causes to be operated a motor vehicle upon any public road or highway in this State without motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required by this act, and any operator who operates or causes a motor

vehicle to be operated and who knows or should know from the attendant circumstances that the motor vehicle is without motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required by this act [penalties set out but omitted].

There are no cases interpreting this statute. It is therefore necessary fo the court to construe its terms by determining the legislative intent. Asbury Park Bd. of Ed. v. Holk , 38 N.J. 213 (1962). A review of the legislative history of the law is an essential aid in doing so. State v. Madden , 61 N.J. 377 (1972).

The present law is a result of Assembly Bill 802, introduced on March 6, 1972. The bill, as originally introduced, read, in part, as follows:

Any owner, operator or registrant of a motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this State who operates or causes to be operated a motor vehicle upon any public road or highway in this State knowingly without motor vehicle insurance coverage. . . .

[Emphasis supplied]

The Official Copy Reprint deleted the word "knowingly" from the bill. ...


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